NCAA Bracket 2019: Tips, Info and More for Top March Madness Games

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2019

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 02:  Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats raises the trophy and celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Michigan Wolverines during the 2018 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at the Alamodome on April 2, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.  Villanova defeated Michigan 79-62.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NCAA bracket has become a powder keg.

Millions of men's college basketball fans enthusiastically fill out their brackets, only to watch them implode based on the wrong selection or, more dramatically, when Cinderella bears her sparkling glass slipper.

Still, nothing beats the excitement of the friendly competition associated with picking team wins and losses, who will make it to the Final Four and ultimately who will cut down the championship nets.

Last season's surprise team was Loyola-Chicago, which made it all the way to the semifinals. Not only did the Ramblers bust brackets, they also made for great television as their 99-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, propelled them into viral sensations.

They won't be dancing this year, but it's safe to say some other unsuspecting squad will capture the imagination of fans.

Here are some useful tips and other information about schedules and locations to get ready for Selection Sunday and the unfettered euphoria of March Madness.

      

Round-by-Round Dates

Sunday, March 17: Selection Sunday (6 p.m. ET on CBS and live-streamed through NCAA March Madness Live)

Tuesday, March 19: First Four in Dayton, Ohio

Wednesday, March 20: First Four in Dayton, Ohio

Thursday, March 21, and Friday, March 22: First-round games

Saturday, March 23, and Sunday, March 24: Second-round games

Thursday, March 28, and Friday, March 29: Sweet 16

Saturday, March 30, and Sunday, March 31: Elite Eight

Saturday, April 6: Final Four

Monday, April 8: Championship

       

1st- and 2nd-Round Locations

The first and second round of March Madness will be held in the following locations: Hartford, Connecticut; Salt Lake City; Des Moines, Iowa; Jacksonville, Florida; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Columbus, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; and San Jose, California.

       

Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four Locations

For the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight, the games will migrate to Louisville, Kentucky (South Regional); Anaheim, California (West Regional); Washington, D.C. (East Regional) and Kansas City, Missouri (Midwest Regional).

The Final Four will be held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

       

TV Information

March Madness will be televised and the good folks over at CBS Sports and Turner Sports will be the ones delivering all the action, with games being broadcast on CBS, TruTV, TNT and TBS.

       

Bracket Tips

Don't Try to Reinvent the Wheel

Let's face it, choosing winners in a 68-team single-elimination tournament can be quite daunting. That's 34 games to predict. 

Thankfully, most of the schools are recognizable and are known for having tournament success, but all of those strange-named teams in the field? Most not enrolled at those schools have never heard of them, either.

So breathe deep, settle in and have fun with it.

First of all, the top-ranked teams are top-ranked for a reason. Don't bet the farm on potential Cinderella teams. It's admirable to include one or two long-shot picks, but keep those to a minimum because while they may slay a Goliath or two, they aren't going all the way.

Need proof? The last 10 champions are blue-blood programs like Villanova, North Carolina, Duke, Connecticut and Kentucky.

So pick a surprise here and there, but be sure to stick to the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, unless they are virtual hood ornaments that don't deserve to be there.

Since 1985, there have been 13 teams that were preseason Associated Press No. 1s that made it all the way to the national championship (six of them have won).

This year's preseason No. 1 and No. 2 were Kansas and Kentucky, respectively. The Jayhawks (23-8) fell all the way to No. 22 in the final rankings, while the Wildcats finished No. 5.

Gonzaga (30-3) ended the year at No. 1, but the Bulldogs were just upset 60-47 by Saint Mary's in the West Coast Conference tournament title game.

The Zags loss proves that upsets are par for the course in March. One of the biggest upsets last year was Virginia, which, to the chagrin of millions, lost its first tournament game to UMBC.

According to NCAA.com, there are roughly 12.7 upsets per year going back 34 seasons. That means it's advised to pencil in at least 11 upsets in each tournament bracket.

Another trend to keep an eye on is the path teams have to take to get out of their region. If a top team has a tough schedule, it could be a setup for a fall, so keep that in mind when plotting favored teams to the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four.

Remember, the quality of a team always matters, but even an excellent team can get tripped up if they face back-to-back contenders in their region.

For example, Texas A&M looked great last year, but it had to get by Providence and North Carolina before losing to Michigan in the third round. There were too many good teams for the Aggies to have to defeat to make it to San Antonio.

On the other hand, Villanova's path was relatively easy until facing Texas Tech in the Elite Eight. The Wildcats beat the Red Raiders, but they were on a roll and in championship form by the time they faced them.

This season, according to ESPN's latest bracketology, the No. 1 seed in the South Regional is Kentucky, but if Duke gets Zion Williamson back, all bets are off.

Finally, keep an eye on the conference tournaments. They are a good indicator for how teams will fare in the Big Dance.

More often than not, powerhouse schools use them as a tuneup, while others pit their entire tourney existence on them. But those tournaments are influential in seeding and where teams land as far as matchups.

Ultimately, though, if a team plays well and wins their conference title, that's a really good signal that they are ready to make a statement in March.

These are just a few tips to help make sense of all the weird bracket science out there. Of course, there's a lot more information out there to explore, like whether or not to choose teams based on their mascots (not a good idea), but don't be afraid to use whatever basketball instincts come to mind, too. There's no shame in going with one's gut.

So fill 'em out and be sure to have fun while doing it!

Find printable March Madness brackets using this link.

      

Follow Maurice Bobb on Twitter, @ReeseReport.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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